Publication Date

2018-12-06

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2020-12-05

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2018-10-19

First Committee Member

Daryl B. Greenfield

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Shearer

Third Committee Member

Brian Doss

Fourth Committee Member

Elizabeth Simpson

Fifth Committee Member

Ji Shen

Abstract

Children are natural scientists, primed to investigate and evaluate their world. However, in the U.S., there are science achievement gaps already by kindergarten that persist through eighth grade. These achievement gaps coupled with stagnant and poor performance on science assessments have led to a current national focus on early science education. A likely contributor to these problems is the limited support that early science educators receive. Young children’s desire to understand their world is supported, nourished, and transformed into rigorous learning by adults. Supporting the adults in classrooms (i.e., early education practitioners) should, therefore, increase children’s learning. The present study begins to address this national need by examining preschool teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) for early science. PCK includes three unique but interrelated knowledge bases: teachers’ knowledge of facts/content knowledge about a subject, knowledge of strategies to effectively teach that content, and knowledge of the developmental level of the learner. PCK is a critical construct to examine in understanding how to support teachers in developing and maintaining high-quality interactions with children. Science PCK for preschool teachers has yet to be investigated, largely due to the lack of effective measurement tools to assess science PCK in preschool. This study examined the psychometric properties of the PreK-ASK, a newly developed questionnaire created to assess preschool teachers’ PCK for early science. Results indicate acceptable item level properties, adequate reliability, and suggest convergent validity. There was not, however, evidence to support predictive validity of the assessment. Researchers and practitioners may use this measure to evaluate interventions, inform professional development and teacher education, and investigate new inquiries related to preschool teachers’ PCK for science. Providing a lens and language to evaluate and discuss preschool teachers’ PCK may make it more accessible to researchers and practitioners alike, thereby spurring a more focused and meaningful approach to supporting early educators and, ultimately, increasing science achievement for young learners.

Keywords

pedagogical content knowledge; preschool; science; early childhood; teacher

Available for download on Saturday, December 05, 2020

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